White Noise is a film directed by Noah Baumbach. It is one of his first films that is a book adaptation. It is much different than what audiences are used to from his previous projects. The film begins with actor Don Cheadle doing a lecture on cinema arts. Baumbach is known to start his films with characters that have intellectual mindsets.
The beginning of White Noise also showcases the traits of characters related to some of Baumbach’s previous projects. Baumbach always knows how to make the smart characters problematic in his films. Adam Driver plays a college professor and is the king of strong words in White Noise. This is one of the film’s lighthearted features which plays into the quirks and frustrations of the characters in this dark comedy about an apocalypse.
White Noise has that classic family vibe in a bizarre way. The family is quirky and their dynamic is off. The town the movie is set in is retro. Baumbach’s approach to sci-fi adds more than enough detail. His setting is saturated and despite its comical scenery, it fits the mediocre apocalypse that is the center of the film.
White Noise takes place around a contemporary American family setting. The audience is introduced to Jack Gladney and his wife Babette (played by Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig). Jack’s career as a professor in addition to his responsibilities as afather become problematic. Jack teaches theoretical types of courses most of which discuss history and Hitler. His colleague,Murray Siskind (played by Don Cheadle), teaches the same types of courses. Their theories of voices and communications are subjects of debate between them, and their strong revelations grow into an apocalypse.
The film reveals that the town is at risk of toxins. A train disaster marks the start, but despite the severity of the situation, Jack and Babette act like their children should not be concerned for their safety. White Noise is presented in Baumbach’s interesting mode of characterizations. He does not follow a serious approach (as many would assume). The clouds set the problems in motion and the danger warning is “Cloud of deadly chemicals.” However, there is more danger than just the environment being at risk in this film.
Jack and Babette evaluate the situation with their children and try to remain subdued.
White Noise is a journey of a family adapting to a natural disaster. In some scenes, the conflicts are mediocre at best. The crazy and entertaining scenes are when additional life-problems evolve after discovering the dangers of the toxic events.
With all the silly tangents in White Noise, the movie has Baumbach’s signature style. That style includes the family sticking together, no matter how challenging their circumstances may be. That reminded me of his previous films like The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Marriage Story (2019). Of course, those were more serious films. This time around, audiences can expect to laugh more because the responses to shocking discoveries are not so upsetting.
White Noise does have some bigger conflicts. Its quirkiness, however, continues throughout the film. This could be an end-of-the-world scenario as Jack and Murray even tie their theories to the apocalypse. Do their theories mean anything positive? White Noise is a film of revelations all due to one chaotic disaster. It is not great but still offers an enjoyable time.
Three stars for White Noise.
Available on Netflix.